Arrive in style on the ski train...
Enjoy extra days on the slopes and no surcharge for skis or boards with Eurostar Direct Ski Trains.
Self-drive ski holidays in France
Travel to France by ferry and some of the best self drive skiing in the world. Enjoy the freedom of taking unlimited baggage and up to 9 people per car via .
Book your journey with P&O Ferries
Find a hotel
Booking a hotel has never been easier with accorhotels.com, Europe's largest hotel group.
Why pay for your skis?
Book tickets to Grenoble and take Monarch Flights to this undiscovered destination from Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and London Gatwick. There are plenty of cheap flights available to help you get the most out of any holiday to Grenoble, whatever season you travel in.
Experience complete comfort on SWISS flights to Geneva and enjoy the added bonus of taking your skis at no extra cost.
Pick up and ski this winter
Forget about queuing for a bus at the airport, low cost car hire - with a ski rack if necessary, will get you to where you want to go with a minimum of fuss. Click below to take advantage of special offers.
Beyond all the hype lies what, exactly..?
At the head of the Tarentaise Valley beyond Les Arcs, La Rosière, Sainte-Foy Tarentaise and Tignes the Route des Grandes Alpes hits the snowy buffers each winter in Val d’Isère. If anything, this glamorous ski area is even bigger than it looks on paper, and is linked seamlessly to neighbouring Tignes to form the legendary Espace Killy. So it’s very much a case of quality and quantity. Off-piste is virtually limitless, although beginners and less than confident (and fit) would probably be happier elsewhere. Or join those who come just to be seen.
Driving to Val d’Isère, especially in the chill darkness, feels like a real to-the-end-of-the-line experience. And when the snow-line creeps down from the Col de l’Isèran and closes the road at the end of the valley just beyond the Fornet cable-car, it’s exactly that. Having enjoyed driving the Route des Grandes-Alpes in autumn, we’re now looking forward to finding out how one of the more memorable sections looks and feels beneath our skis.
This slightly surreal experience will have to wait, however, until after we’ve devoted some time to getting our bearings, particularly as we’re based at the opposite end of the valley. Fortunately La Daille is far from isolated, having three high-capacity ski-lifts of its own, including the metro-like Funival funicular, which dives deep into the mountain and emerges way up at the Rocher de Bellevard at 2827m.
Ahead lies a vast panorama, and a dazzling choice of ski runs. This being Day One, we pass on legendary descents like the Face Olympique de Bellevarde and 'OK' Coupe du Monde and instead warm up on a gentle cruise over to the Borsat Express lift, then to the Col de Fresse chairlift. From here we could drop more or less straight down into Tignes Val Claret, but elect to stick closer to ‘Val’ and see what its own terrain has to offer. The snow quality feels good, so we work our way eastwards, passing below le Rocher de Bellevard to reach Santons, a blue-graded piste which plunges down into Le Châtelard, close to the heart of Val d’Isère 1850.
By mid-morning the restaurant sun terraces are already filling, but we press on, taking the Solaise Express chairlift up to 2560m. We’re getting into our stride now, continuing our smooth progress through the lift system and the connecting runs. Minutes later we’ve ridden the Madeleine Express, dived down through the Col de la Madeleine, and joined the Glacier Express. The security and effectiveness of these new lifts becomes apparent when Cugnai, an older fixed chairlift serving a single red-run, fires us off onto a tight 180° hairpin turn followed by a steep plunge back down to the Col once again. Next time we’ll be prepared.
Not that the new, high-speed lifts don’t hold a few surprises of their own in store, as we discover when the Leisières Express takes us not only up but over a high ridge, before making a steep (and rapid) descent into the neighbouring Vallon de l’Isèran.
By now we’ve almost reached our target, the Pissaillas Glacier. Even before we step off the Cascade Express we know we’ve found somewhere special — not in terms of size (it’s pretty modest) or terrain (the pistes are pretty undemanding). It’s quite simply a magical spot, with vast, top-of-the-world views over to the distant Grand Motte Glacier, silhouetted almost 3500m above Tignes — about the same altitude as we are now, in fact.
To prove the point, closer to hand is a privileged overview of the 2770m Col de l’Isèran (left), one of the highest road passes in Europe, and for much of the year comprehensively snowed-in. The glacier is also a point of departure for various off-piste routes, but we break for lunch, ski the groomed pistes for the fun of just being here, then begin to make our way back to our starting-point. Not bad for a first day’s skiing.
During our stay we cover a lot more ground, yet still feel like we’ve only scratched the surface. And yes, we do get to ski down the section of the Route des Grandes Alpes whose roadside piste-markers looked so incongruous back in the autumn. This really is quite a place.
© Roger Moss